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Accounting salaries are still rising

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In times of uncertainty, it seems that salaries for finance and accounting professionals continue to rise. Perhaps because the more confusing things become, the more businesses and organisations need people who can make sense of what’s going on.

In fact, while 86% of CFOs are confident of their companies’ growth prospects, 92% of HR directors are concerned by the difficulty in finding professionals with the right skillsets, while 80% of businesses are worried about losing top talent in 2017, according to Robert Half UK’s 2017 salary guide.

This makes for a candidate-driven market in the UK, which means good news for employee remuneration packages, including greater focus on flexible working, employee training and vacation days, among other things to help attract and secure talent. It also means salaries are rising across the spectrum of accountancy and finance roles, at all levels.

Even in the months after Brexit in the UK, when a wobble in hiring was expected, the finance and accounting sector was a marked exception, with vacancies increasing by 16% in August, according to the Association of Professional Staffing Companies.

Meanwhile, the picture in other parts of the world is more muddled, with political, social and economic forces affecting recruitment in different ways. For example, while Australia is expecting a rise in salaries after a subdued 2016, the situation will be less emphatic in China as many companies outsource operations, creating demand for lower paying roles in second-tier cities. However, both countries are enjoying an explosion in SMEs and start-ups, which presents opportunities to get in at the deep end, gain valuable hands on experience and drive growth.

The recruitment markets in Hong Kong, Japan and Malaysia will remain candidate-driven, with strong demand for finance professionals at most levels and salaries increasing as competition for the right candidates heats up. In India, one of the world’s most attractive developing economies, investment is confidently returning, especially into financial services sector, which is capitalising on significant technological innovations. Opportunities for finance students and professionals is beginning to really grow in India, where ACCA is well-regarded. Meanwhile, in the UAE 68% of employers are looking to hire in 2017, according to Robert Half UAE.

Apart from in Singapore, the general picture is demand outstripping supply of relevantly skilled professionals, with firms finding it increasingly difficult to attract the desired talent, experience and skillsets, and finance bosses across Asia and Europe highlighting this as a key concern.

Wanted more than ever: junior accountants

This activity in the jobs market is not confined to management and senior roles either, with part-qualified ACCAs in great demand, especially those with commercial, analytical and technological skillsets, who can support business growth and transformation. Part-qualified and junior salaries in the UK can range up to £30,000, nearly 2% up on 2016, according to the Robert Half survey, in such roles as trainee accountant in a public practice, assistant accountant, sales ledger clerk, cost accountant and internal auditor. While 2% growth may not sound substantial, it needs to be viewed against a backdrop of zero growth in the wider UK job market and near-zero inflation.

The financial services sector will remain a particularly strong growth area for the UK economy, with over 50% of firms expecting to add permanent professionals in 2017, and salary growth of up to 4% for roles including graduate accounts assistant (£25,750-£33,750), assistant financial accountants (£29,000-£46,000), assistant regulatory accountants (£31,250-£48,000), assistant management accountants (£28,500-£46,000). Meanwhile, CFOs in financial services firms will earn in the range of £137,500-£238,000, up 1.2%, according to Robert Half.

ACCA membership pays

As for more senior roles in commerce, ACCAs in the UK with 5-10 years post-qualification experience and CFOs and FDs with proven strategic and commercial backgrounds are greatly sought after. Depending on whether you’re working for an SME or a large company, managers, financial controllers and management accountants in SMEs and large firms can earn between £49,000 and £93,000, with experience and specialism beginning to add greater value to people’s skillsets.

Further up the chain, CFOs and group finance directors at large UK firms can earn up to £163,000 per annum, or up to £115,000 at SMEs. Partners in large professional services firms such as the Big 4 (Deloitte, KPMG, EY, PwC) can up to an incredible £447,500 a year. Counterparts in SME practices also earn upwards of £100,000.

Asia bound

Passing over the Middle East on the way to Asia, 85% of CFOs in the region are concerned about losing top talent in 2017, while 40% expect a talent war, which makes a very welcoming environment for professionals with the right skillsets, with salaries to match - 5.8% growth expected. Junior accountants with less than five-years’ experience can earn upwards of £11,000 to £25,000.

In Asia Pacific, junior salaries range from £12,230-£28,500 in Hong Kong, £43,200-£68,000 in Australia, £21,000-50,000 in Japan, £20,000-£37,500 in Singapore, and £6,500-£12,000 in China, according to Hays. Meanwhile, top finance leaders - CFOs and FDs - in Asia can command up to £360,000, with salary increase of up to 4% in the year ahead.

Setting the price

There’s a growing trend in company’s relying on interim and temporary roles, with a PwC survey revealing that HR managers expect that by 2020 20% of the UK workforce will be made up of freelance or temporary workers. Indeed, 90% of FDs in the UK expect to work with interim managers in 2017, according to Robert Half. In such an environment, contract professionals with the right skills - project management, communication, commercial awareness, digital technology and change management - will be able to command higher fees.

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